God’s Sprit at Work Baptism of the Lord
Acts 19:1-7 January 10, 2021 Mark 1:4-11
What comes to mind when I say the word “ghost”? Is it something creepy from Ghostbusters, or a haunted house like the Amityville Horror, or is it something more like Casper the Friendly Ghost? The word “ghost” is peppered throughout our vocabulary: “She doesn’t have a ghost of a chance”; or “We drove up to an old ghost town”; or “the car ghosted under the fog-shrouded streetlight.” Some Sundays, we sing, “Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” I believe the difficulty here is that we are trying to use a common vocabulary for something uncommon, something outside our “normal” experience! We try to relate it to something that makes sense.
In the Bible, the Holy Spirit is compared to “wind” and “breath”—and that makes a certain amount of sense.
Have you ever had the wind “knocked out of you?” (Or breath) I distinctly remember almost 60 years ago when I fell out of a swing and landed flat on my back. I couldn’t breathe, but I was still conscious. I couldn’t move or do anything until, suddenly, I started breathing again. Perhaps it’s experiences like these that have caused people (for millennia) to think of breath or wind as being the very life of all creation. In the Genesis 1 account of creation, we read that “a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” The Spirit is active in the process of creation!
Today’s Scripture readings are centered on God’s active presence in the world—the Holy Spirit. We’re going to look at these texts and some others that help us understand how God’s Spirit is at work in our world and in us.
Never Heard of the Holy Spirit
In our Acts passage, Paul found some disciples in Ephesus. He asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
You see, the Christian faith had been spreading like wildfire, and these disciples had been baptized into John’s baptism. Paul explained that John called people to repent and be baptized, then to believe in the Lord Jesus. After they were baptized in the name of Jesus, the Holy Spirit washed over them.
John’s Baptism of Jesus
In our Gospel reading, we see people coming out to John, responding to his call to repentance, and being baptized. John proclaimed, “One more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!” And when Jesus came to be baptized, the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove. A voice was heard, “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well-pleased.”
In the other Gospels, the Spirit then impelled Jesus into the wilderness to get him prepared for his public ministry—Teaching, Preaching, Healing. The Holy Spirit was manifest in Jesus!
Manifestations of the Spirit
Have you ever found yourself in exactly the right place, at the right time, and all your circumstances pulled together for just the right experience? When this happens, we say, “It’s a God thing.” The Holy Spirit is at work, strength comes to you to do what you need to do. And the understanding dawns—the light comes on. Prayers are answered in a miraculous fashion. Sometimes God is working through us. It seems God gets a kick out of letting US be a part of God’s wonderful work!
Don’t forget, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth.”
Of course, they didn’t really understand him until the Day of Pentecost—then it made sense!
Paul phrased it a little differently in Galatians: He says that the fruits of the Spirit are Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Self-control, Faithfulness, and Gentleness. THESE aspects of the Spirit are things we can observe, understand, and experience.
Sometimes the Spirit is something that is hard to “track down”, hard to describe in concrete terms the way much of our material world can be. But listen to what Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Prayer: God we pray that your Spirit will be at work in us, that we might understand your will and be empowered to follow it.
We ask in the name of Christ, amen.